“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
The first four beatitudes deal with our internal principles, principles of the heart and mind. They are concerned with the way we see ourselves before God.
The religion Jesus faced in His day was shallow, superficial, external and ritualistic.
The Jewish leaders thought they were secure and that they would surely inhabit the kingdom of God. But Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness”(Matthew 23:27).
The last four beatitudes are outward manifestations of those attitudes. Those who are in poverty of spirit recognize their need of mercy and are led to show mercy to others. Mercy is a desperately needed gift of God’s provision on behalf of sinners and the Lord requires His people to follow His example by being merciful to others.
The Meaning of Mercy.
Mercy means beneficial or charitable. Christ is the supreme example of mercy. He has both redeeming and sustaining mercy. Mercy is not passive, silent concern which, though genuine, is unable to give tangible help. It is genuine compassion expressed in genuine help, selfless concern expressed in selfless deeds. Jesus is saying in effect that, His people are not takers but givers, not pretenders but help in practical ways. They do not condemn but show mercy.
The self-centred, self-righteous do not bother to help anyone, unless there is something in it for them. The Jewish leaders were not inclined to show mercy, because mercy is not characteristic of those who are proud, arrogant, rude, self-righteous and judgmental. Mercy is meeting people’s needs. It is not just being compassionate toward someone but showing compassion, not only sympathizing with someone but giving a helping hand. Mercy is giving food to the hungry, comfort to the bereaved, love to those who are rejected, forgiveness to the offender, companionship to the lonely.
The Source of Mercy.
God is the source of mercy, but only for those people who move through the first four preceding Beatitudes. It is only for those who by the work of the Holy Spirit bow humbly being poor in spirit, who mourn over and turn from their sin, who are meek and submissive to His control, and who hunger and thirst for His righteousness.
The way of mercy is the way of humility, repentance, surrender and holiness.
After the fall of man, Gods love was extended to all His fallen creatures in mercy. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:11).
This blessing of God is fulfilled when we are merciful toward others and we are able to be merciful to others because we have already received salvation’s mercy. We do not earn salvation by being merciful. We cannot work our way into heaven, even by a lifetime of merciful deeds. God does not give mercy for merit; He gives mercy in grace, because it is needed, not because it is earned.
The Practice of Mercy.
The Good Samaritan is a great example in Scripture of showing mercy. Jesus commands that as His follower’s we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those who are in prison, and to give practical help to anyone when it is needed. When we exercise this type of servitude attitude toward others, we are demonstrating a heart of mercy. Mercy is shown by our attitude. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbour resentment, capitalize on another’s failures, exploit another’s weakness, or publicize someone else’s sin. If we have received from a holy God unlimited mercy that cancelled our debt of sin, it is true to say that we should be merciful to others.
A Study from the Beatitudes – by John Denman
Photo by T. Smith